New dutch ovens come from the factory with a thin coat of wax in order to keep them from rusting. Before using your dutch oven (or any other cast iron cookware, i.e a cast iron skillet or griddle) you will want to season it. A properly seasoned dutch oven will be very dark – almost black and will have a non-stick surface every bit as effective as teflon. Every meal you cook in the oven will contribute to the seasoning and will add more flavor.

In order to season the dutch oven, follow this simple process:

  1. Start by washing the dutch oven with soap and hot water.
  2. Use a tough cleaning pad and clean the cooking surfaces really, really well (the inside of the pot as well as the lid).
  3. Get a handful of paper towels and coat the inside and outside of your dutch oven with shortening, i.e. Crisco. Really goop it on. Cover it good as this will be the basis of how food will taste for years to come.
  4. Now it is time for the heat – literally. You can do this inside the house, but if you have a grill outside big enough for the dutch oven that is preferred. Put your dutch oven into your grill or oven heated to 350 degrees. If you are doing this in the house, you will want to place a cookie sheet on the bottom rack with some heavy duty aluminum on it to catch the drippings. A new dutch oven being seasoned for the first time will smoke a ton as the impurities, wax, and oil burn off the oven.
  5. Leave the dutch oven in the heat for about 2 hours until it completely stops smoking.
  6. Take the dutch oven out of the grill or oven (please use oven mits or gloves to protect yourself from the heat as the oven will be HOT!).
  7. Grab a good handful of paper towels and wipe the oven off both on the inside and out.
  8. Apply another thin layer of Crisco to the oven and stick it in the heat again. This time it should only take 45 mins to stop smoking.
  9. Wipe it out one more time and then apply a very thin layer of oil (too much will cause it to smell like rancid oil) and stick it back into the oven
  10. Turn off the heat. Let the dutch oven cool to room temperature.

Your oven should now be a dark chocolate brown and food will not stick when you cook in it. You are good to go!

You should also read about Seasoning a new Barbecue Grill as well as this post about Seasoning a Dutch Oven.